“Kids are living stories every day that we wouldn’t let them read.” –Josh Westbrook
I am reminded of this quote due to the recent back-to-school book banning articles that have cropped up everywhere recently, it seems. Even my local rag ran an article about the recent banning in Missouri of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. (This is not my paper’s story, but read about it here.)
Now, I haven’t read Twenty Boy Summer, but you can bet it is now on my “to-read” list – and the “to-read” list of teens everywhere. As I write this, I came across another censoring incident, this one in New Jersey. Yes, you can add one more book to my “to-read” list: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.
This entire book banning nonsense got me thinking—what would the library look like if censors got their way all the time? According to ALA’s list of Frequently Challenged Books for the past decade, children would be deprived of Harry Potter, The Giver, Bridge to Terabithia, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, among many, many, many other wonderful books. Not to mention all the challenges that go unreported. ALA only collects information about book challenges from newspapers and personal submissions, I’m sure there are many more out there that we haven’t heard about.
In the recent New Jersey story, a parent is quoted, saying that Norwegian Wood is not relevant for any teenager, due to a lesbian sex scene. Wesley Scroggins, leading the charge in Missouri, challenged the books in question because they “teach principles contrary to the bible.” But the one quote that gets me the most is by Peter Sprigg, with the Family Research Council (an organization that advances “faith, family and freedom in public policy and public opinion”), who says “Here we see the intersection of parental values being offended, the hyper-sexualization of our youth and the homosexual agenda being pushed. This just illustrates why a lot of American parents are not willing to entrust their children to the public schools anymore.”
What?!? Read that again, let it sink in.
So, let us visualize what censors would like to the library (public or school) to be:
- There would be no health books that have anything to do with reproductive health, sex, or reproduction.
- Absolutely no fantasy.
- Probably no history books.
- No books that even hint at homosexuality.
- No books containing any sort of sexual expression.
- But I bet there would be bibles.
Maybe I’m being harsh, but children are not islands unto themselves. They are living in the real world, with real problems and in real neighborhoods. Books allow children an escape, a chance to empathize, a chance to relate, an opportunity to understand. By banning, censoring, or removing books, we are not doing our children any favors.
I love Josh Westbrook’s quote, because it is so succinct and sums up how I feel about censoring books. Kids are not stupid. They are well aware of what goes on in the world, and are living much of it.
And I really do want to know what books people like Scroggins and Sprigg want America’s children reading, instead of what they definitely do NOT want them to read.
What do you think the censor’s library would look like? Please share your thoughts!